Georgia Tech defeated Faulkner, an NAIA school from Alabama, in an exhibition game Thursday night at McCamish Pavilion by a 78-60 score. It was a better showing for the Yellow Jackets than their 65-58 defeat to Georgia State on Saturday at McCamish, with 31-for-64 shooting from the field (48.4 percent). Tech will now leave Friday for China and its season opener against UCLA on November 10 in Shanghai. Five observations from the exhibition.
1. The freshmen played better than they did in the scrimmage against Georgia State. The level of competition was undoubtedly a factor, but they nonetheless played with more energy and effectiveness.
Point guard Jose Alvarado:
Against Georgia State – 0-for-10 from the field, two points, one rebound, one assist, no turnovers.
Against Faulkner – 5-for-11 from the field, 13 points, eight rebounds, six assists, one turnover.
Forward Moses Wright:
Against Georgia State – 2-for-8, six points, five rebounds, four fouls.
Against Faulkner – 7-for-12, 17 points, 13 rebounds, one foul.
The statistical differences with forward Evan Cole and guard Curtis Haywood weren’t as drastic, but coach Josh Pastner liked what he saw nonetheless.
“I was happy with Moses Wright and Evan Cole,” he said. “I thought they both had good practices and you can see them getting better. Jose was much better (Thursday). So that was good. We’ve got to get Curtis focusing strictly on being energy – defender, rebounder – and let his scoring be secondary, not trying to focus solely on scoring. He’ll get there. It’s going to take some time.”
2. Wright in particular was eye-catching in his activity level. He went to the offensive glass, showed some touch on jump shots and went hard at the defensive glass. He’s someone likely to make considerable strides this season if he gets playing time. He is athletic but raw. Pastner said he has natural ability that can’t be taught.
“He just doesn’t know how to play,” Pastner said. “He has no clue.”
3. Pastner played point guards Justin Moore and Jose Alvarado together for extended spurts. With starting guards Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson out for an undetermined length due to an impending NCAA suspension – likely no more than nine games for Jackson and six for Jackson – he needs to find some other combinations on the floor.
“I thought first half, they were good and second half not as good,” Pastner said. “I’ve changed the starting lineup in the private scrimmage (against Auburn), Georgia State and this game. I’ve changed it all three times. We’re just trying to find the right mix.”
4. One area that Pastner has said has to be solid this year – free-throw shooting – was decidedly not. Tech shot 12 for 23 from the free-throw line. The Jackets were 23 for 28 against Georgia State. The Jackets shot 68.2 percent from the free-throw line last season, 247th in the country.
5. Amidst his oft-repeated boilerplate comments – that this year will be harder than last year, that this is a major rebuild, that Tech has to get old and stay old – was a comment that fans might find encouraging.
“I’m telling you – I really like our team,” Pastner said. “We will get better as the year goes.”